Last night I got to go to a lecture at Loyola and they had the retired General Colin Powell who came to do a presentation. It was a pretty amazing talk. And what I took away from it was only one idea. He said, “A leader has three responsibilities: 1, to create an environment that allows the people to grow. 2, to trust their people so they can grow and 3, empower the people so they can grow and the whole organization becomes better.
He told us what to do, but he didn’t tell us how to do these things. Now here are my ideas about how to make these things happen. The first one is the environment, which is the most important. Another way of saying environment would be the ‘culture’ of the organization. So the first thing we need to pay attention to is, the way people do things and their behaviors because under every single behavior is a belief that controls that behavior. We need to understand the beliefs that are at play that create the dynamics of the team and the organization. Then we take a look at how this dynamic should be and how we want people to behave. Then we get the delta between what are the beliefs right now and what beliefs they need to have. I want you to know that there are tools from neuroscience that allow team behavior to happen and once you do that, it changes things in a significant way.
The second point was to trust your people. If you have individuals that are in this culture and within themselves there lays a belief that ‘it is my responsibility to make sure that I do exactly as I said’ or ‘it is my responsibility to make sure my company achieves these goals.’ but more importantly, ‘it’s my responsibility to make sure every other department in this company succeeds because if they’re failing, it’s my job to help them to achieve better.’ When you have this kind of trust, it allows people to go to another department and say that I think you guys are falling short. In the past when there was no trust, they might tell you to mind your own business and let us focus n our stuff. But when you have that level of trust, they’re open to hearing what the problem is, and they’re open to that help to improve. When you have that level of trust in one self and in each other it allows the organization to grow.
The third thing is to empower people to do better. If you’ve got the right culture, people have the trust and they know every single person in the organization and would take a bullet for them, then you can focus on empowering them. The best way to empower people is to give them one responsibility and one responsibility only above and beyond their work load. And the responsibility would be how you can do things better and how we can do things better as a team. When people start looking at their work environment, what they’re doing, what their department is doing and the filter is ‘how can I do better’, if you’re looking hard enough for it, you’ll find it. And all of a sudden you see all the people from the department improving things, sometimes small things that make a difference and sometimes larger things. But you have that culture that’s always looking to improve the organization. That’s how you build an organization where a) people want to come to work b) you outpace the competition and c) since everybody trusts everyone else you can actually get a true strategy that can lead the competition while you do amazing things that make history.